Child protection convention great opportunity for Caribbean as it pushes integration – Sir Matthew Thorpe

Georgetown, GINA, July 15, 2016

The Hague Child Protection Convention can be a regional tool implemented by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to protect children and provide remedy and justice for families moving across borders as the region seeks to strengthen its free movement efforts.

Sir Matthew Thorpe, the former Lord Justice of Appeal and Head of International Family Justice was making a presentation at the regional conference of Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) being hosted in Guyana at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown.

Sir Matthew Thorpe former Lord Justice of Appeal, London and Wales and Head of International Family Justice

Sir Matthew Thorpe former Lord Justice of Appeal, London and Wales and Head of International Family Justice

“Within a region an instrument which provides protection and justice to reflect the mobility of the people within the region is absolutely vital,” Thorpe told the gathering of Ministers of Legal Affairs, Attorney Generals, Judges and other legal practitioners.

Noting that CARICOM’s integration initiative is similar to that of the European Union when it had first started, Thorpe said the 1996 Child Protection Convention should be accelerated to be adopted by the Caribbean region.

The 1996 Child Protection Convention covers a wide range of civil measures of protection concerning children, from orders concerning parental responsibility and contact to public measures of protection or care, and from matters of representation to the protection of children’s property. The Convention has uniform rules determining which country’s authorities are competent to take the necessary measures of protection.

“It could be exceptionally useful, I suggest within the Caribbean region on a regional level. I simply can’t see any rational reason for rejecting the 1996 convention,” Thorpe pointed out.

Cross -border contact becomes a particular area of concern in the free movement of people. There has to be reciprocal recognition and enforcement especially when the child or children have parents in different states.

“I simply cannot see why any legislature should, as it were, (be) viewed with suspicion or viewed with disfavor,” Thorpe said. The general failure for a more global standard to protect children across borders arises from lack of understanding.

Thorpe opined that it is only specialist family lawyers who “really understand how crucial these instruments are and how badly they are needed.” He noted that it very often difficult to persuade the executive and legislative bodies of any country “that this business has high priority.”

Thorpe pointed out that criminal justice is of vital importance but expressed the belief that it is “high time” international family justice cease to be treated as a relatively low priority.

“I do think that the availability of the 1996 convention within your region is something that should be acclaimed as a wonderful opportunity,” Thorpe said as he closed his address.